Posts Tagged ‘board recruitment’

Most board members fail without this quality: Find it in four steps.

“A positive attitude is essential. If you don’t think so wait until you encounter someone with a really bad one and then try to work together to achieve certain goals,” says Super Boards author, William R. Mott.

Many of us spend countless hours working with the boards that oversee our nonprofits. These trustees hold our nonprofit futures in their hands. Then why don’t we spend more time focusing on who are the best people  to sit at the board table? Bill Mott answers this question and many others with a fresh perspective on what makes a board exceptional in his latest book.

Great board recruitment is much like interviewing for paid leadership positions

One of the Super Boards chapters I appreciated in particular was Mott’s recommended interactions for recruitment—steps that many nonprofits seem to bypass in lieu of a single meeting with one board member. Recruiting a board member is much like interviewing someone for a paid leadership position in your organization. If selected, this board prospect will have a say in fulfilling your mission and influencing your strategic initiatives. It makes sense to give board recruitment the same attention paid positions receive. A thorough board interview process should entail getting to know the candidate in different contexts and through the eyes of key people on your staff.


Mott suggests these ways to “determine the compatibility of a prospect with the organization and staff”:

1) Invite the person to attend an event.

2) Seek the candidate’s assistance or input on a committee.

3) Invite the candidate to meet other board members, the CEO, and the development and marketing staff.

4) Offer a tour of the facilities.

All these efforts sound simple but ask yourself how many of your new board recruits have completed these four interactions before sidling up to your board table. When completed, these steps should avoid bringing in a board member that has no connection to the organization or one the organization does not know at all, both dangerous options.


While compatibility is essential to enlist successful board members, Mott addresses the importance of one quality that trumps the others: attitude. There is a quotation that says, “Attitude is like a price tag: it shows how valuable you are.” What price are we paying for bad attitudes on our boards? Conversely, how much (immeasurable) value do we gain by possessing great attitudes on our boards? In our CausePlanet interview, I asked Bill to elaborate on attitude and recruitment:

CausePlanet: You mention, “The key in having board members who exhibit a positive attitude is to recruit them.” What suggestions do you have for the board members who are the recruiters?

Mott: Perhaps the most important committee of any nonprofit board is the committee on trustees. This group is charged with recruiting, training, educating and evaluating the board. My experience is that a positive attitude trumps so many other traits. Someone who has a positive outlook is usually someone who will enjoy whatever he or she does–including serving on a governing board. When the committee on trustees is recruiting new board members, one of the character traits it should encourage is a positive attitude. Not someone who is necessarily just agreeable, but someone who recognizes the importance of being supportive and encouraging. This is the kind of leadership that inspires others to do their best by being their best.

Eighty-nine percent fail because of bad attitudes

If we return to the analogy that compares recruiting board members to hiring paid leadership positions, it’s not hard to find endorsements of Bill Mott’s emphasis on attitude. In fact, Mark Murphy, the author of Hiring for Attitude, is the founder and CEO of Leadership IQ, a top-rated provider of cutting-edge research and leadership training that has consulted more than 100,000 leaders from virtually every industry and half the Fortune 500.

According to a Forbes article, 89 percent of the time new hires fail because of attitudinal reasons and only 11 percent of the time due to skill. The Forbes article reports, “The attitudinal deficits that doomed these failed hires included a lack of coachability, low levels of emotional intelligence, motivation and temperament.” Using our analogy, we can logically apply these statistics to board “hires” and how attitude affects performance.

Where do we find great attitudes?

Additionally, when Murphy was asked by Forbes where companies are finding new hires with the right attitudes, he said, “Companies are not getting high performers from the usual sources. They’re hiring in, what we call, the ‘Underground Job Market.’ According to our latest research (outlined in Hiring for Attitude), companies are finding their best people through employee referrals and networking. They have started to realize that the high performers they already have fit the attitude they want and that these are the people they should be asking to help find more people just like them.”

Murphy’s description of the “underground job market” is a welcome signal to ask your current board members who already exhibit great compatibility and attitude who they might recommend as a winning board candidate. When you land these referrals from your pool of top-shelf board members, remember to apply Mott’s four recommended interactions so you can put the “organizational fit” to the test.

Watch for future installments about Super Boards by Bill Mott when we’ll discuss how to overcome some of the most damaging behaviors exhibited by board members.

See also:

The Ultimate Board Member’s Book

A Fundraising Guide for Nonprofit Board Members

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7 reasons board candidates choose one nonprofit over another

For over two decades, I’ve had the honor and privilege of guiding hundreds of business executives and professionals in choosing the nonprofit boards on which they’ll serve. Each candidate experiences a personal journey exploring regional, national and perhaps global organizations, sorting through a plethora of causes and considering nonprofits that are at vastly different stages–from start-up enterprises to century-old institutions.

When making their final choice, here are the seven considerations board candidates tend to take most seriously:

  1. Am I excited about the mission? Is it meaningful enough for me to take time from my busy life, make generous financial contributions, and ask my company and friends to support the organization as well?
  2. Do I find the chief executive officer (executive director) compelling–someone I am confident in and look forward to working with?
  3. Do I find the programs compelling? Are they achieving the work the organization has set out to do? (And if the programs need to be enhanced or streamlined, do the chief executive and/or the board seem prepared to make that happen?)
  4. What is the revenue model? What are the challenges? Do the CEO and board seem prepared to address the challenges?
  5. Who are the board leaders? Do they seem to have a handle on the key issues facing the organization? Are they prepared to galvanize the board to strengthen the organization, including with financial support?
  6. What value can I add? Am I ready to do what they need from me? Do I think the CEO and board will actually engage me and appreciate what I can contribute?
  7. Is this an organization with integrity, as evidenced by their adherence to legal and fiduciary duties and responsibilities? And if they are missing the mark on a few specific matters, what are they? Are the board and CEO interested and open to making corrections?

Deal breakers: Scaring away the board candidates you most want to recruit

Board candidates that bring diverse perspectives and valuable experience and resources are not lacking for board options. People are most likely to choose boards to which they can add value, not those that could possibly stymie their efforts.

Board candidates often consider the following to be deal breakers: too big and stale of a board to allow new board members to truly engage, obstructive or divisive board members, weak or incompetent CEO or board leadership, an obsolete board structure, lackluster board participation in attendance and/or giving/fundraising, and revenue challenges the leadership is unwilling to face.

The lesson for nonprofits in building highly effective boards

The key message for nonprofit boards is to pave the way to attract andretain the board members who will add the most value in helping to advance their organizations to their greatest potential. Pave the way by assessing your board and improving your board practices and effectiveness.

For their part, business executives and professionals are most effective onboards when they have considered a variety of options, made a meaningful choice and prepared themselves to “make the translation.” That’s when the fun begins. A good nonprofit board experience leads to remarkable results for the board member, the board member’scompany, and most importantly, the community.

See also:

Leveraging Good Will: Strengthening Nonprofits by Engaging Businesses

A Fundraising Guide for Nonprofit Board Members

The Ultimate Board Member’s Book


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